Highway 6: Hollywood turned Burgaw into backdrop for films, TV shows since 1980s

It started with the Master of Horror
Updated: Jun. 14, 2019 at 1:16 PM EDT
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PENDER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - It began with a silver bullet - Stephen King’s Silver Bullet to be exact.

The werewolf horror film, starring Gary Busey and Corey Haim, filmed in Burgaw in 1982.

Since then, the quaint town, with its historic courthouse, became the backdrop for at least 30 films and TV shows.

“The nice thing about this building, you throw up a sign, it becomes the town,” Mike Raab said of the Pender County Courthouse. “That’s why (filmmakers) love this building.”

Raab was so enchanted by Burgaw becoming what he calls “the most famous filming location you’ve never heard of” that he made a documentary about the town’s Hollywood history.

He said during filming for Silver Bullet, the production hired much of the town to appear as extras during a picnic scene. Folks were encouraged to bring their dogs and enjoy a day on set.

Since then, filmmakers return year after year to put their mark on what could be “Anytown USA.”

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood starring Sandra Bullock and Freedom Song starring Danny Glover shot scenes in Burgaw.

Tammy, starring Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon, turned the square around the courthouse into a playground.

Revolution, a short-lived NBC TV series, used the grounds for a militia fight.

Under the Dome, another Stephen King project, put a gallows outside of the courthouse. The gallows is gone but the memories remain. A lot of locals talk about the oddity of seeing that in the center of town.

In the 1997 slasher movie, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character runs for her life from a hook-wielding killer through Burgaw and, for a moment, finds safety in Shiver’s, which in real life is home to Harrell’s Department Store.

The shop has been in Vernon Harrell’s family since 1903.

His late father has a picture with Gellar and Jennifer Love Hewitt, who starred in the film.

But his father was more star struck by another actress who graced Burgaw with her presence.

“Mary Tyler Moore was filming in front of his store all day long,” he said. "He said she was just the nicest person he’d ever come into contact with, a caring and understanding individual, just the nicest person, but the fact she was in her slip all day long probably didn’t hurt either!”

Some scenes filmed in Harrell’s slipped onto the cutting room floor.

Idlewild took over the place for three weeks," he said. "They painted the walls a dark brown, redressed everything with period displays and clothing and shot here for four days and never put any of it in the movie. They spent a lot of money and it wasn’t used.”

Money is something that the town of about 3,900 sees when the film industry comes to town, with productions that rent antiques, along with cast and crew members who dine at the town’s restaurants and get a dose of caffeine at Brown Dog Coffee Company to get them through hours of filming.

Harrell said it is also a boost to morale here.

“It’s an exciting event,” he said. “People like to see the famous actors and be a part of something that’s more than just the day-to-day in Burgaw.”

Tourism leaders are planning to organize a walking tour in the future that will show off the filming locations around town.

In the meantime, visitors just have to pose their questions about the films and TV shows shot here to a local, who are more than happy to share the scoop about the Hollywood spotlight shining on Burgaw.

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